The Top 10 Best Permaculture Books for Beginners and Experts
Permaculture is a huge field that ties together many different disciplines and it has its in-depth philosophy, theory and practices. This makes learning permaculture a massive undertaking so it takes most people many years of study combined with constant practice. To make this as easy as possible you should know what the best permaculture books are so that you can build a strong foundation.
Many new permaculture teachers are starting their own curriculums and giving their own interpretation of the permaculture fundamentals. This makes it even more important to stick to the most trustworthy sources and then later on you can choose your own path of permaculture.
To help all who seek to learn more about permaculture, here are our top 10 best permaculture books.
Top 10 Best Permaculture Books
1. A Designers’ Manual – Bill Mollison
Bill Mollison is the pioneer of permaculture; he even coined the term permaculture. After leading the sustainable agriculture movement, he eventually found permaculture and put together the bible of permaculture, A Designers’ Manual.
This book is still used as the main textbook of permaculture. Most schools and courses have pulled their curriculum out of this book and any teacher worth anything has studied this book. Due to this, the book can be a bit overwhelming for beginners and it is generally more used by advances practitioners, educators and designers.
In the book, Bill Mollison describes permaculture as being a conscious design science where agricultural systems are based on the key fundamentals of natural ecosystems. These fundamentals are stability, resilience and diversity. In essence, the people and the landscape should be in harmony and should provide for each other, exactly like an ecosystem does. The core of his teaching is that it should be ethical and it can only be ethical if it is sustainable.
2. Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability – David Holmgren
David Holmgren grew up as the student of Bill Mollison at university. The two later became colleges and did a lot of ground-breaking work together. David was the person who helped Bill with formulating the 12 principles of permaculture that are taught today. These principles put permaculture philosophy into a practical set of principles that can be applied.
Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability is David Holmgren’s contribution to permaculture. It is his interpretation that is built on more than two decades of work in permaculture. He puts a new perspective on the principles that go beyond what was previously understood. He discusses all the aspects of how communities and landscapes need to be recreated in harmony with ecological situations.
The book is a quick read and it is simple to understand. This makes it perfect for anyone new to permaculture. It is also layered with wisdom which makes it also perfect for advanced practitioners.
Out of all the books, there are on permaculture, including all the books on this list, this is the most important book that everyone interested in permaculture should read.
3. Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture – Toby Hemenway
Toby Hemenway is another one of the predominant figures in permaculture. The American author has written many books in the field of permaculture and ecology. His most well-known is Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture. This book comes in as number 3 of our top 10 list.
The book has a first edition which was very well received for the way it communicated the ideas of working with nature and not against it. The book was then extensively revised to create the second edition. The second addition went into a lot more detail on how permaculture can be applied to urban areas.
The book is ground-breaking because it brings permaculture to everyone in urban areas, you no longer need a farm to practice permaculture. Any small space in a backyard can be used in one way or another to enrich your life while also enriching the environment.
Gaia’s Garden showed how fun and easy it can be to create a backyard garden which will lead to the building of soil, creating habitat for animals and insects, catching and storing water and yielding edible foods.
4. Earth Care Manual – Patrick Whitefield
Patrick Whitefield is a British permaculturist and this book Earth Care Manual is mainly focussed on British and other temperate climates. Before this book was published there were only books by Australian authors that base their data on the Australian climate.
The book includes a lot of great recourses like photos, diagrams, plant lists, etc. This made it possible for permaculture to more accessible to multiple countries. Even without the effect that the book had, it is still a very valuable book that is top-rated to this day.
5. Permaculture: A Beginners Guide – Graham Burnett
This book is a great starting point for all beginners. It is only 76 pages long and it is written in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand. This makes it perfect for someone new to the subject and just wants to be eased in without being overwhelmed.
This book serves as a great graphic guide with lots of important information on how the permaculture ethics and principles can be applied. Not only for applying them on big farms but also in places as small as backyards or even windowsills.
Graham Burnett is also a vegan so he writes from the perspective and practices of a vegan. This is also very helpful for practitioners who are looking to design with veganism in mind.
Among other things Permaculture: A Beginners Guide discusses what is permaculture, why do we need permaculture, how do we design with permaculture, what are zones, layers, intercropping, succession and how do they work, how do they apply the ethics and the principles, and many more key topics.
6. Permaculture Design: A Step-by-Step Guide – Aranya
Aranya is one of the top teachers in the permaculture world. He studied Applied Permaculture until 2003 and then he started teaching soon after. To date, he has taught near a thousand permaculture courses making him one of the most experienced teachers.
His book, Permaculture Design: A Step-by-Step Guide, includes all of the basics as well as many full-colour worksheets that he has developed over the years of teaching. Aranya takes the reader through the entire process of permaculture design from start to finish. It is made easy to understand with colourful diagrams, flowcharts and illustrations. This makes it perfect for beginners but there is also lots of value for experienced readers.
Some of the other topics that are included in the book are things like project management, choosing systems and elements, meeting with clients, land-based and non-land based designs, and even strategies of how to work in a design team.
7. People and Permaculture – Looby Macnamara
Looby Macnamara has been studying, practising and teaching permaculture from 1999. Since then, she has written multiple books and founded many organizations. Her first book was People and Permaculture and it is still one of the best books on the topic.
This book is different from the other in many ways, but the main way is that is focused on people. Macnamara uses permaculture principles to design better relationships and restore social well-being. This gets taken from personal to social to societal and concludes that permaculture can help solve some of the biggest social issues in society.
The book is a practical guide for creating positive change in your life and the world. It includes over 50 activities that can be done to reinforce the ideas taught in the book. By starting with the individual, you can create waves of change that can change the world as we know it.
8. The Permaculture Garden – Graham Bell
The book by Graham Bell teaches that by working with nature you can transform your backyard into a beautiful and productive system. Bell lays out practical examples of how the reader can lay out their garden. It makes use of the principles to create gardens that are easy to make, take minimum labour to upkeep, costs minimum money to create, and most important, is fun to do.
There are many great tips and ideas in this book like how to upcycles materials for your garden, how to plant so that you get maximum productivity from the growing season, and which plants to choose to serve your needs.
The Permaculture Garden is a great book for anyone interested in Permaculture. It is suited for beginners and intermediate students but mostly for those who want to apply the principles in a small garden.
9. Creating A Forrest Garden—Martin Crawford
The ultimate book for creating forest gardens that produce edible or medicinal crops. Martin Crawford explains the whole process and takes the reader through all the steps necessary for creating and maintaining an amazing forest garden.
Creating an amazing forest garden is not easy as it involves many different elements in one system. Exactly like a natural forest has many different parts that create the forest. It is therefore important to understand each part, as well as the relationships of the different parts and the system as a whole. Creating A Forrest Garden explains how you can make use of trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, ground cover and fungi to create a forest garden that will be its own ecosystem.
The book also includes detailed lists of edible plants that are ideal for food forests in temperate climates.
10. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture – Rosemary Morrow
Rosemary Morrow has been involved in permaculture teaching and practice for as long as anybody. She is internationally known for her designs and teachings which stretch all over the world to many different environments and climates. She has designed and implemented community size permaculture systems all over Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. She is well known among all permaculture teachers and her book Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is definitely one of the best books you can read.
Rosemary Morrow has a very practical approach so she goes through the ethics and the principles in such a way that the reader knows exactly how they apply the theory. Her years of practical experience has given her the perfect background to bring the theory into practice.
Hopefully, these top 10 permaculture books will help with the journey of becoming a permaculturist. It is a very long journey and there is always more to learn, but when it is done right, and for the right reasons, the journey is a beautiful one. These books will get any beginner well into the flow of things and even the most experienced practitioner can find some helpful tips here and there. The most valuable thing is the experience so it is best to do your reading and to get in the garden!